Sophomores will be allowed to serve as resident assistants beginning this fall, AU's Housing and Residence Life office announced earlier this semester. The position was previously reserved for juniors and seniors.
The announcement was made before the application process for fall positions opened. Lisa Freeman, director of residence life and residential life education, said the introduction of sophomores to the RA applicant pool is a national trend that the University has spent the last two years considering.
“We have spent probably the last two years analyzing our current staff structure, looking at the types of student classifications that we have, and toward the end of last year I made the decision that we wanted to advance moving forward with sophomores,” Freeman said. “Across the country. probably 90 percent of our greater institutions have sophomores as RAs, so we’re not doing anything new, this is the standard. Sophomores are common.”
Sophomores will bring stability and consistency to the RA position, Freeman said. The office has previously faced challenges with upperclassmen graduating early and taking off semesters to study abroad.
“It’s not in any way an intention of not having juniors and seniors in the role,” Freeman said. “What we simply wanted to do was to try and address some of the concerns that came up as a result of having staff that were only serving in semester positions when it’s really more beneficial to have it for a year long position but then also to expand leadership opportunities for sophomore students.”
Bret O’Brien, a current freshman and newly hired RA for the upcoming school year, feels both prepared and excited to take on the responsibility. He said his recent transition to college will allow him to help future students who will be having the same experiences.
“Sophomores have just experienced their freshman year and have the memories and would be able to relate to the freshmen more than maybe a senior would be,” O’Brien said.
However, not all upperclassmen share the same sentiments regarding the expanded RA applicant pool.
Victoria Vena, a current sophomore and desk receptionist who applied but was not hired as an RA, said sophomores will struggle with some of the challenges of being in the position.
“Sophomores at AU aren’t emotionally or academically prepared and capable of succeeding in the RA role due to its demanding nature and potential to become overwhelming,” Vena said.
However, Micah Annis, a junior RA in Hughes Hall who started the position during her second year at AU due to her junior credit standing, said the bigger applicant pool will not only help HRL find the best people for the job but give “high achieving” sophomores the opportunity to grow in the position for three years. “
“There’s [not] a real difference in maturity between a sophomore RA and a senior RA,” Annis said.
This sentiment is shared among other current RAs, according to Freeman, who shared that a current RA reached out to her after the announcement and expressed their approval of the requirement change.
Freeman added that sophomore RAs will be carefully placed and upperclassmen housing, such as Nebraska Hall, will still be reserved for upperclassmen RAs.
“This is a way for us to think about how we can help students be connected and engaged,” she said. “I think the RA position is an important role, one that’s role modeling but also one that serves in a support role for students that are either transitioning to college or students that have been here.”